Out of the gloom Salman Rushdie floats into view, his familiar face with short beard and glasses hovering on screen in front of a library that should win any competition for the most impressive Zoom bookshelf backdrop.
From his New York apartment he is here to share three things: he has made a deal to publish his next work of fiction as a serialised novella on Substack; he intends to fulfil a long held, once thwarted desire to be a film critic; and he still doesn’t have the courage to write poetry.
“I got very attracted to the idea recently, in this strange year and a half, of trying out things I’ve never done before,” he says.
“It’s to do with this enforced condition we’ve all been in of being pushed inwards … I published this book of essays [which was] the 20th book and I’m already writing the 21st book, which is a novel. I just thought: do something else. And exactly the moment I was thinking that this project cropped up.”
“This project” is Substack and came about after the newsletter platform wrote to Rushdie’s literary agent, Andrew Wylie, who asked him if it was something he wanted to do.
“I’ve been looking at [Keret’s] Substack and it’s so witty and enjoyable, and he’s clearly having a wonderful time doing it, I thought, ‘maybe I could do that’.”
Substack provides a platform for readers to subscribe to individual writers, whose posts are sent to your inbox or can be read online. Writers often provide a mix of paid and free content, which is what Rushdie plans to do.
“I’m going to kind of make it up as I go along, but I have some starting points,” he says. Aside from the novella, it will feature short stories, literary gossip (“as long as its not defamatory”) and writing about books – and film.
“I always wanted to write about movies. There was one moment 100 years ago, when somebody at the New Yorker was taking paternity leave and I was asked if I’d like to step in for a couple of months to be their film critic. I thought that was a wonderful idea and I said, ‘yes, please’. Then the critic in question ended up not taking the paternity leave so I got fired before I started.”
Often locked inside during the pandemic, Rushdie set himself a program to rewatch the films that made him fall in love with movies when he was young – “the French New Wave, the Italian New Wave, all the other great films of that period of the 60s and 70s”.
“It was very interesting to see what, in my view, held up and what did not.”
His novella, titled The Seventh Wave, is also linked to film. The 60,000 word text, which has now been slashed to 35,000 words, is about a film director and an actor slash muse written in the style of New Wave cinema, with “disjunctions and crash cuts and gangsters”.
“The infallible test of anything I write is embarrassment,” Rushdie says. “If I’m embarrassed to show it to you, then it’s not ready.
“There comes a point where I’m not embarrassed to show it and actually I’m kind of eager to show it. After the complete rethinking of this text – compressing, condensing, cutting, changing the narrative line somewhat – now I like it.”
It will be a digital experiment in serialising fiction (“the way [it] used to be published, right at the beginning”) with new sections coming out approximately once a week over the course of about a year, he says.
A surprising number of the classics were originally serialised: Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers is the best known example, but there is also Madame Bovary, War and Peace, and Heart of Darkness. Rushdie references the experience of Samuel Richardson, who serialised his novel Clarissa in 1748.
“His readers expected that she would, in the end, fall in love with the guy. But then he rapes her. Richardson had quite a lot of correspondence from readers who said that, in spite of that terrible act, they still wanted what they would consider to be a happy ending – and he very determinedly would not give it to them.
“I’ve never had that before, to be publishing something where people can say things about it while it’s going on.”
Is he open to the idea of feedback from readers shaping the story?
“It would have to be a very good suggestion,” he says. “But it does sometimes happen that somebody says something about a character, which you hadn’t thought about when you were writing it … If somebody were to say, for instance, ‘Oh, that’s interesting, I want to hear a bit more about that’, then maybe I’ll give them a bit more about that.”
Rushdie says he doesn’t want to use Substack as a political platform (“I think what happens is that takes over and obliterates everything else”), but he acknowledges that events (“eg. Afghanistan”) might force him to say something.
Despite his intentions, the move to Substack could see Rushdie wading into a politically charged fight over the moderation of tech platforms. The Trump era and now Covid have poured rocket fuel on to questions about gate-keeping, misinformation and which voices get to be heard, that have been simmering for the best past of a decade.
After becoming the target of a fatwa issued by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989 over his novel The Satanic Verses, freedom of speech has been central to Rushdie’s public identity.
“The question about which voices get to speak … is a very important [one],” he says. “In publishing … there was a real problem about which voices got to speak, and I’m not saying that’s gone away, but it’s changing. Here [in the US] there’s a lot more space for writers of colour than there used to be, both in publishing books and in the critical sphere.
“And potentially something like this, with its lack of gatekeepers, could also enable a more diverse set of voices … If you want a Substack you can start one, you know, you don’t have to be invited.
“But I don’t want to be their cheerleader,” he says. “It was interesting for me to have a go with this and all I’ve done is it make a 12-month commitment. A year from now, I’m going to see where we stand, and I’ll either go on with it, or I won’t.”
What he is interested in for now is engaging in a dialogue with readers. In the first post on his Substack, which is called Salman’s Sea of Stories, Rushdie writes poetically about how stories give birth to other stories, using as an example two stories in his own life which sparked the idea for his best of the Booker prize-winning novel Midnight’s Children.
“Human beings have always been storytellers and you use that as a way of understanding who you are, and who the people around you are, and what’s going on,” he says. “If I look back, which I don’t very often, the books do seem to be like reports from different stages of my consciousness. I think most of us do that – we all tell each other stories all the time.”
Rushdie says Twitter has enabled him to maintain a connection with his country of birth due to a disproportionately large number of his 1.1m followers being Indian.
“It does become a way for me, sitting in New York, to have a conversation with people across India as if I was there – and it actually sometimes makes me feel that I am there, you know, because I’m in their living room on their computer, and they’re online.”
Through that community Rushdie, who has remained engaged both with India’s political situation and its suffering amid Covid, got involved in campaigns to fundraise money to provide oxygen cylinders and the like.
He is hoping that Substack “might allow a slightly more complex connection” and give him the space to talk about things that “are just too big to discuss in tweets”.
“I think that new technology always makes possible new art forms, and I think literature has not found its new form in this digital age … Whatever the new thing is that’s going to arise out of this new world, I don’t think we’ve seen it yet.
“I have a very strong suspicion, it is not going to be somebody of my age who comes up with it.”
Rushdie is quite laissez-faire about where this new project will take him.
“I’m just diving in here and que sera sera, you know. It will either turn out to be something wonderful and enjoyable, or it won’t.”
But he also realises that by taking his fiction digital, he is taking a small step away from the beloved medium he has dedicated his life to.
“People have been talking about the death of the novel, almost since the birth of the novel … but the actual, old fashioned thing, the hardcopy book, is incredibly, mutinously alive. And here I am having another go, I guess, at killing it.”
Pic As Apple and Qualcomm push for more Arm adoption in the notebook space, we have come across a photo of what could become one of the world’s first laptops to use the open-source RISC-V instruction set architecture.
In an interview with The Register, Calista Redmond, CEO of RISC-V International, signaled we will see a RISC-V laptop revealed sometime this year as the ISA’s governing body works to garner more financial and development support from large companies.
It turns out Philipp Tomsich, chair of RISC-V International’s software committee, dangled a photo of what could likely be the laptop in question earlier this month in front of RISC-V Week attendees in Paris.
A slide from the RISC-V Week event in Paris teasing a potential RISC-V laptop coming in 2022 … Click to enlarge.
Tomsich teased the device at the end of a talk with Mark Himelstein, CTO of RISC-V International, about the software optimization work needed to mature the RISC-V ecosystem.
“The big question that everybody is asking themselves, and the one where I’m wondering, Mark, if we’ll be able to pull this off: will we see the first RISC-V laptop announced this year?” Tomsich said as he showed a picture of a black, brandless laptop that had a large question mark over it.
Tomsich then hinted at the potential specs of the laptop:
Tomsich shared the photo of the mystery PC while promoting a few milestones for RISC-V, including the March launch of the first portable RISC-V computer, modeled after Kyocera’s classic TRS-80 Model 100 “slab” computer from 1983. Tomsich also hailed Alibaba Cloud for getting Android 12 to work on its own RISC-V silicon, and RISC-V compiler support for Java through OpenJDK.
What could the RISC-V laptop be for?
We were able to extract the image of the mystery laptop from the slide to get a slightly closer look:
A photo of what could be a RISC-V laptop, as shown at the RISC-V Week event in Paris. Click to enlarge.
Unfortunately, there’s not much we can discern from this photo. The device itself looks fairly rough, pretty much a prototype, which means the laptop is likely being used for development and testing purposes.
However, there was one interesting detail that caught our attention: the bottle in the top-left corner of the photo. We learned from a quick Google search that this is a water bottle brand in China called Ganten.
Now, normally we wouldn’t care much about seeing a bottle of water, but we do know that, as of last summer, the Institute of Software at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (ISCAS) was planning to build 2,000 RISC-V laptops by the end of 2022 as China looks to reduce its reliance on foreign tech giants like Arm and Intel amid ongoing tensions with Western countries.
Does this mean the mystery laptop is being developed by ISCAS? It’s too soon to say. There could be other RISC-V laptop developments in China, though the ISCAS project is the only one in the country El Reg knows of so far.
The only other public RISC-V laptop development we’re aware of is one in Russia, which is expected to have homegrown RISC-V laptop chips ready for devices by 2025, according to a report from last year. The country is now cut off from Arm and Intel due to its invasion of Ukraine, so RISC-V is probably its best option now due to the ISA’s borderless nature.
As for RISC-V laptops popping up elsewhere in the world, we shouldn’t expect commercial products for a while – though if you know of any, or can identify the machine above, please do let us know. We’re also more than aware of the RISC-V boards out there for developers.
Patrick Little, the CEO of RISC-V chip designer SiFive, told us earlier this year he doesn’t think system-on-chips using the company’s CPU blueprints will find their way into PCs until roughly late 2025.
There’s also the fact that much work is needed for the RISC-V ISA to provide the same level of software support and cross-platform stability that x86 and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Arm, provide for PCs now. ®
The new facility will create jobs for engineers, mechanics and support staff as Ryanair seeks to expand its fleet to more than 600 aircraft over the next four years.
Ryanair is opening its first heavy maintenance facility in Ireland at Shannon Airport, which the airline said will lead to 200 “high-skill” jobs in the region.
The airline said it will invest €10m into the “state-of-the-art” facility, leased from Shannon Group. This will support the maintenance of Ryanair’s fleet, which it is looking to expand to more than 600 aircraft over the next four years.
Jobs to be created at the maintenance facility include licensed engineers, mechanics and support staff.
“Ryanair creates opportunities for highly skilled engineering jobs, with our industry-leading rosters and the youngest fleet in Europe,” Ryanair director of operations Neal McMahon said. “Shannon is an ideal location with opportunities to attract, train and employ local talent to support this new facility.”
Ryanair has operated from Shannon Airport since 1986, opening a base at the airport in 2005. It has carried more than 17m customers to and from the airport to date.
The airline said the investment is a mark of its commitment to both Ireland and the mid-west region.
Shannon Group CEO Mary Considine added that it represents a “vote of confidence” by Ryanair in the future of the airport.
“Having Ryanair at hangar 5, one of 10 fully occupied hangars on our Shannon campus, is another significant boost for the region, creating high-quality jobs for local aviation specialists,” Considine said. “The resulting jobs and investment are also consistent with our strategic plan to increase economic growth and retain skills and talent in the region.”
Ryanair carries around 154m passengers every year on more more than 2,400 daily flights from 82 bases, with its fleet of roughly 470 aircraft. The airline said it has a headcount of more than 19,000 skilled aviation professionals globally.
10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.
Older TikTok users are using the online platform, regarded as the virtual playground of teenagers, to defy ageist stereotypes of elderly people as technophobic and frail.
Research has found increasing numbers of accounts belonging to users aged 60 and older with millions of followers. Using the platform to showcase their energy and vibrancy, these TikTok elders are rewriting expectations around how older people should behave both on and off social media.
“These TikTok elders have become successful content creators in a powerful counter-cultural phenomenon in which older persons actually contest the stereotypes of old age by embracing or even celebrating their aged status,” said Dr Reuben Ng, the author of the paper Not Too Old for TikTok: How Older Adults are Reframing Ageing, and an assistant professor at Yale University.
Interestingly, said Ng, most TikTok elders are women who “fiercely resist common stereotypes of older women as passive, mild-mannered and weak, instead opting to present themselves as fierce or even foul-mouthed,” he said.
The immense reach that these older TikTok users have means they have the potential to transform negative age stereotypes that proliferate on social media.
“There is considerable evidence that ageist stereotypes preponderate among the young on social media,” said Ng. These prejudices reached an all-time high during the Covid pandemic, during which the deadly virus was labelled a “Boomer remover”.
“The strength of anti-age prejudices means the participation of older adults in social media is vital in ensuring that such ageist ideas are not left unchallenged,” said Ng, whose paper is to be published in the Gerontologist journal.
The paper looked at 1,382 videos posted by TikTok users who were aged 60 or older and had between 100,000 and 5.3 million followers. In total, their videos, all of which explicitly discussed their age, had been viewed more than 3.5bn times.
Ng found that 71% of these videos – including those from accounts such as grandadjoe1933, who has 5.3 million followers, and dolly_broadway, who has 2.4 million followers – were used to defy age stereotypes. A recurring motif was the “glamma”, a portmanteau combining “glamorous” and “grandma”, with videos including those of a 70-year-old woman joyfully parading around the streets in a midriff-bearing top.
Almost one in five of the videos analysed made light of age-related vulnerabilities, and one in 10 called out ageism among both younger people and their own contemporaries. Other videos positioned older users as superior to younger people. “I may be 86 but I can still drink more than you lightweights” says one clip. “I may be 86 but I can still twerk better than you,” says another, showing an octogenarian leaping up from a fall down the stairs with a twerk.
Analysis by the Pew Research Centre has found a remarkable uptake of technology by older Americans during recent years: in 2000, 14% of people aged 65-plus were internet users; in 2019, it was 73%. Only half of adults owned smartphones in 2014, 81% of those aged 60 to 69 have them today.
Emma Twyning, the director of communications at the Centre for Ageing Better said: “We need to see much more diverse portrayals if we are to truly shift attitudes and cast off negative perceptions of growing older. Social media is the perfect platform to do this and to call out ageism more generally.”
Stuart Lewis, the chief executive of Rest Less, said TikTok was the ideal platform for midlife influencers to take to the stage and defy ageist stereotypes. “Creators are encouraged to be original, raw and unedited – making it the ideal soapbox on which to stand if you want a space to debunk stereotypes and be your uncensored self,” he said.
Prof Fiona Gillison, from the Healthy Later Living Network at the University of Bath, who is leading work on challenging stereotypes about ageing, said the study was important. But she added: “There is a balance to be struck in challenging stereotypes about ageing while also accepting that it is OK to want different things from younger people as we grow older, and accepting that our interests and abilities may change.”
Ultimately, she said, people need to “take the stigma out of needing adjustments as we age while also challenging assumptions that can accompany these. For example that having a hearing aid somehow implies that we are ‘fragile’ or ‘infirm’ in other ways.”
The older users showcasing their energy and vibrancy
The 88-year-old Staffordshire man is TikTok’s wealthiest “granfluencer”, his videos apparently earning him about £134,000 a year. Grandad Joe has won 5.4 million followers and 156.7 million likes for videos including one of him giggling after his youngest granddaughter gives his grown-up daughter “attitude just like she gave me [when she was younger]”.
92-year-old Grandmother Droniak went viral, reaching 4.2 million followers, after laying down rules for her funeral including “Cry, but not too much,” “Bertha isn’t invited” and “Get drunk afterwards”.
Grandmaann2 lures viewers to her account with the strapline “I’m old so follow before I die”. Two million people couldn’t resist, and to date they have given her lip-syncs and comedy skits 63.5m likes.
Jenny Krupa, 87, has won 2 million followers and 93m likes since a 2019 video accidentally posted by her grandson, Skylar Krupa, titled “Perks of being old” reached 1,000 views in about 15 minutes.
The latest video for her 1 million followers shows 89-year-old Dolores Paolino dressing up in a Marilyn Monroe-type dress and telling Kim Kardashian she looks better in it than her.
Other videos show the grandmother from south Philadelphia wearing sequined jumpsuits and swigging from a bottle on her birthday, and pushing ice-cream cones into her grandchildren’s face.